Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, Louisville Metro Police Department

Will Louisville’s First Black Female Police Chief Restore Trust In The Black Community?

Interim chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel is the first Black woman to serve permanently as the Louisville Metro Police Department’s chief, the New York Times reports.

The 26-year law enforcement veteran has been the interim police chief since January when Erika Shields resigned. Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg made the announcement on July 20, 2023.

“Over the past six months, Chief Gwinn-Villaroel has shown our city that she has exactly what I’m looking for in a chief and exactly what our community is looking for in a leader,” Greenberg said. “She has extensive experience in law enforcement leadership and a record of reform.”

Before being the fifth person to serve in this position since 2020, she spent her entire career at the Atlanta Police Department.

Louisville’s police department has been under intense watch since the 2020 murder of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, who was killed in her apartment during a no-knock warrant raid in the middle of the night involving four officers. All four were charged last year.

As new leadership is put in place, critics are hoping this will turn things around and help the Black community put trust back in local Louisville law enforcement.

In an opinion piece by the Courier Journal, the city’s major newspaper, journalist Joseph Gerth broke down when the mistrust may have started. Almost 20 years ago,  Louisville and Jefferson County merged and Robert C. White, the city’s first Black police chief, was elected to lead. Following, there were several high-profile police-involved incidents.

“Mayor Craig Greenberg’s decision to hire interim Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel as his permanent chief may be Greenberg’s answer to the same problems [former mayor Jerry] Abramson and the city faced two decades ago,” Gerth wrote. “It isn’t to say a white police chief couldn’t make the inroads that White did two decades ago, but people are often more likely to trust those who look like them—it’s human nature.”